Josh Barnett

_prefix

_prefix is a Markdown-powered notebook for developers. Jot down notes, code snippets, and documentation. Sync your work to the cloud and pick it up again on any desktop or mobile device. Change colors to match your style, and get more done with JavaScript extensions.

Despite years spent working with Evernote, Jira, Google Drive, and other collaborative note-taking solution, I have yet to find a simple note and snippet tool that's dedicated to improving the collaborative developer experience. _prefix was my attempt at solving that.

Challenges:

  • Too many "developer experience" tools are cumbersome and get in the way of the development flow. Many of them solve real problems but take too long to use. Dev teams should be able to jot down project notes, code snippets, and documentation quickly enough to not interrupt what they're actually working on.
  • Many note-sharing tools like Evernote have inconsistent formatting between different devices and platforms. Rich-text editors make the matter worse by creating unexpected behavior when pasting in text or code from various sources.
  • Whenever possible, developer tools should always act as a platform for customization and extendability. Developers know what problems they need to solve — it's up to platform owners to provide them the tools to solve those problems and otherwise stay out of the way.

Solutions:

  • We used Markdown to ensure quick, simple, and consistent formatting of all types of documents. Whether a user is working with light notes, code snippets, or rich documentation, they can use visual tools or quickly typed markup to format the document. With a realtime database sync, changes are instantly mirrored to the cloud and available to collaborators.
  • By using Markdown and a unified format view, both the markup and the formatted results are visible in the same way to all versions of _prefix, whether on Mac, Windows, or mobile devices. Even syncing documents to and from other platforms like GitHub Pages, Gists, Trello, and BitBucket Server provides a consistent format, since Markdown is largely handled the same way in all of those environments.
  • By building _prefix as an API-driven JavaScript application, opportunities for extendability are present from Day One. Developers can extend _prefix using JavaScript-based plugins, CSS customization, and external webhooks that communicate with the API to retrieve document content and change history.

My roles:

  • Product designer
  • UI/UX designer

Tools used:

  • Photoshop (high-fidelity prototype / branding)
  • Sketch (high-fidelity interactive prototype)
  • Balsamiq (low-fidelity interactive prototypes)

And then what happened?

As I began making progress into the MVP codebase (which was going to involve Vue.js, Firebase, and some Markdown-parsing goodies), I happened upon a couple fairly new apps called Bear and Notion.

While not a perfect substitute for _prefix, Bear came close enough to fitting the same needs that I no longer felt a strong market gap existed for _prefix to fill. When stronger team collaboration and internal documentation is needed, I now recommend Notion.

Some other recent projects:

CallThemForMe.
SKULabs